Hydrological Modelling to Inform Forest Management: Moving Beyond Equivalent Clearcut Area
Forest disturbance can alter the hydrologic conditions of a watershed, including the frequency, magnitude, and timing of peak and low flows. Equivalent Clearcut Area (ECA) has been routinely used in watershed assessments to estimate hydrologic alteration due to forest disturbance. ECA analyses typically rely on broad regional assumptions, qualitative observations, and/or expert judgement, making it difficult to provide accurate quantitative estimates of hydrologic change. Process-based hydrological models offer an improved approach since they replicate watershed processes, can simulate land cover and climate change scenarios, and provide quantitative estimates of hydrologic change, including at ungauged points of interest. A workflow using a regionally calibrated hydrological model to investigate forest disturbance and future climate change scenarios is demonstrated. Results are contrasted with ECA-based outputs and emphasize that in addition to the amount of forest disturbance, watershed physical characteristics and the location of disturbance within a watershed influence the hydrologic response. This approach provides forest managers with quantitative outputs that support risk-based forest management decisions and presents a substantial improvement over ECA-based methods.
Keywords: hydrological modelling, ECA-based analysis, watershed assessment, forest disturbance, cumulative effects, risk-based forest management
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